Fire claims two historic buildings in downtown Williams Lake

Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Patrick Davies photo
Angie Mindus photo
Patrick Davies photo
New World Coffee and Tea House owner Sue Lachance. Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Angie Mindus photo
Patrick Davies photo

Two historic buildings in downtown Williams Lake have been destroyed by a fire that broke out in the early morning Friday, Sept. 20.

Fire crews were called at about 5:30 a.m. to the location of Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge on Oliver Street, which has been the location of multiple previous arson attempts in the last year.

By 6 a.m. the building was fully engulfed and the roof of the building had collapsed onto the sidewalk. A team of about 25 firefighters from the Williams Lake Fire Department battled the fire hard, hitting it with water from several fronts, in an attempt to stop the blaze from spreading.

Deputy Fire Chief Rob Warnock of the WLFD told the Tribune at about 6:15 a.m. no one was injured in the blaze.

Thick black smoke continued to billow from the building as residents made their way to work Friday morning. Firefighters extended their taped off section to close off Mackenzie Avenue at the foot of Oliver Street just after 9 a.m. when it became evident that the fire was about to spread to New World Coffee and Tea House next door.

By 9:30 a.m. flames could be seen shooting out of the roof structure at the back of the New World as a excavator arrived on scene and tore down the beloved coffee shop to save the others, which included the barber shop, a tattoo parlor, cell phone repair shop and Ming’s Palace Chinese restaurant.

By 10:30 a.m. members of the Wildwood and 150 Mile Volunteer Fire Departments arrived to assist with the structure fires and an air quality advisory was issued due to the thick smoke over the city.

The Tribune caught up with New World Coffee and Tea House owner Sue Lachance on scene, who was coming to grips with the loss.

“We’re sad, but everyone’s safe and that’s the main thing,” said Lachance, who owns the popular shop with her partner Brice O’Neill. “The fire department has been amazing. They did everything they could. They pressurized our building. It looked really positive for a bit … but unfortunately the fire breached the walls.”

The building was built in the late 1930s by the Borkowski brothers, Lachance said, noting the original building was also built on to a couple more times after that.

“It’s had a long, long history of different businesses being in there,” she said.

Lachance and O’Neill completely renovated the building before opening New World Coffee and Tea House and while doing so found many historical treasures that they displayed in the café which were lost in the fire.

“Whenever an historic building like this goes it is always sad because a piece of history goes with it.”

As Lachance spoke, many friends and customers offered their condolences, adding how much they loved the coffee shop.

Lachance told the Tribune they plan to rebuild.

Williams Lake Fire Chief Erick Peterson told the Tribune when they arrived on scene at 5:30 a.m. they observed smoke and flames coming from the roof at the front of Diamonds and Dust.

Peterson said he cannot speculate at this point the cause of the fire, however, residents can expect that section of Oliver Street to be closed for a few days while fire investigators secure and examine evidence to determine the cause.

Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Jeff Pelley, officer in charge of the detachment, said the RCMP are working with the WLFD to investigate the fire.

Peterson confirmed Diamonds and Dust and New World are complete losses, while the barber shop suffered severe water damage, along with the rest of the buildings downhill of the fire.

“All these buildings are connected in one way or another,” he said of the historic block.

Even Caribou Ski Source for Sports, he said, received water damage due to the amount of water they had to use to protect the building from the fire.

Peterson wanted to thank all emergency responders who assisted at the scene, including the Wildwood and 150 Mile fire departments, EHS and RCMP.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Google Maps screenshot shows the Highway 97 intersection at Juniper Road that is being deactivated in South Quesnel. (Google Maps screenshot)
Juniper Road intersection being deactivated in South Quesnel

Traffic can no longer enter or exit Highway 97 at Juniper Road in a move to improve road safety

Carey and Angela Price announced the birth of their third child on Monday, named Lincoln. (Photo submitted)
Canadiens’ Carey Price, wife Angela, announce birth of baby boy Lincoln

Prior to Monday’s announcement, Carey and Angela had two daughters: Liv, 4, and Millie, 1

Williams Lake RCMP are hoping to speak with Amber Wuetz. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake RCMP concerned for missing woman’s well-being

Amber Wuetz was last seen in Williams Lake

Angel Emile, 17, has not been seen since Wednesday, Oct 21. (Photo submitted)
Young Indigenous woman reported missing from Williams Lake

Angel Emile has not been heard from since last week

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Most Read